At 16, one of my biggest worries was the Freshman 15. Long before I knew for sure where I wanted to go to college, the fashion magazines I was reading had warned me of this plague with both personal essays and tips on how to avoid it.
Side note: do teenage boys have magazines aimed at them? There are men’s health and fitness magazines and men’s fashion magazines, but is there an equivalent to YM (showing my age, here) or Seventeen (is this one even still around?) or Sassy (RIP). Did teenage boys know they could be expected to gain 15 pounds their first semester of college or did they not care because lacrosse shorts all have elastic waistbands?
So, by the time I unpacked my bed in a bag and stacked my stackable milk crates next to my twin (to make a convenient bedside table/bookshelf) I was ready to navigate the dining hall and avoid what would surely plague my fellow floor mates. Except, all the tips on what to eat and what to avoid would never be needed. At our first floor mixer, I met Caroline who mentioned she was signing up for novice crew. I asked if I could join her for the informational meeting. It turned out, all you need to try out for the team was to be tall.
Joining crew meant two-hour practices three to six days a week. Mostly cardio but also a lot of weight training. And because most of those practices happened at 6 a.m., it also meant my late nights eating and boozing were limited (not eliminated — I was 18 after all, I had youth on my side).
Then, one day, I was leaving the building, too tired to walk down six flights of steps, I opted for the elevator. I pressed the button and turned to take one last look at myself in the full length mirrors the dorm placed in the elevator lobby. The first thing I noticed was how skinny I looked.
Now, I would never call myself skinny. I wasn’t skinny. I was big boned — sadly, too flat chested to be curvy — average. Maybe, at times, above average. Never skinny. Which is why I so proudly declared to my friends in the dorm later that evening that the mirror in the elevator lobby on our floor was, in fact, a magic mirror.
It was the only explanation. And so, whenever we were suffering from low self-esteem, we would walk down the hallway and stare into the wonder that was the elevator lobby mirror.
This weekend, I was at the shore with Salty and her husband. The weather had taken a sudden turn from cool and comfortable to hazy, hot and humid, and because we were headed to an outdoor bar to watch Temple football, I changed out of my jeans and into a pair of shorts. I didn’t bring heels (a necessary accessory for me when I’m wearing shorts that aren’t running shorts) and was contemplating changing out of my shorts and into a maxi skirt when I caught a glimpse of myself in Salty’s full-length mirror.
What the holy hell. My legs looked long and lean. Even in flip-flops. Oh my gosh, I thought, Salty has a magic mirror, too.
And then I mentally slapped myself across the face. Hard.
Why is it easier to believe a mirror is “magic” than it is to believe after all the work I have been doing my legs looked lean?
Also, why don’t I have any full-length mirrors in my house?